cover image Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence

Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence

Paco Calvo, with Natalie Lawrence. Norton, $28.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-393-88108-0

Plants are more extraordinary than they’re given credit for, contends Calvo, a philosophy of science professor at the University of Murcia, Spain, in his mind-blowing debut. Drawing on research being done at the “frontiers of neuroscience, plant physiology, psychology and philosophy,” Calvo suggests that plants “proactively engage with their surroundings” and may be capable of planning “ahead to achieve goals.” The behavior of some flora indicates they might have memory, he posits, citing a study that found some plants that have lived through a drought conserve water more effectively than those that haven’t, and that plants “are quicker to defend against herbivores or parasites if they’ve been previously attacked.” Calvo broaches the possibility that plants might have personalities and relates that mimosa plants appear to have individual preferences for how quickly they fold up their leaves in the presence of a threat. Calvo is open about the need for more research before drawing definitive conclusions, but even those not fully convinced of plant intelligence will question their own assumptions about which organisms are capable of sentience. This impressive addition to the growing literature on how plants experience the world will change how readers see the flora around them. (Mar.)